Tarver wins title with victory over Johnson

Posted: Sunday, June 19, 2005

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Antonio Tarver vowed to be in better shape this time, and he was Saturday as he took the IBO light heavyweight title from Glen Johnson.

The victory came on a unanimous decision for Tarver, avenging his loss to Johnson six months ago on a split vote.

''We wanted to be quick and we wanted to be fast and let our hands go. It's an example of how hard we worked in camp,'' Tarver said. ''We made weight two weeks ago.''

Tarver had winning scores of 116-112 on two cards and 115-113 on the third.

He came out punching in flurries and continued them through the 12 rounds. He threw 851 punches, landing 218, while Johnson fired 564 times and hit 149.

By the 10th round, the rapid punching drew cheers of ''Tarver! Tarver!''

''When I'm in rhythm, I can let my hands go pretty good and we hit him with some devastating uppercuts. And the hook worked tonight,'' he said.

Tarver, 23-3 with 18 knockouts, also sought to take advantage of his longer reach, while Johnson, 42-10-2 with 28 knockouts, steadily tried to press inside.

Johnson landed several hard body shots but said Tarver managed to avoid the majority of potentially damaging punches.

''Most of the shots were hitting him in the chest and you know those shots are just not as effective as hitting solid in the body or in the head,'' Johnson said. ''Every time I would go to the head, he would slide under me.''

Johnson said he was ready for a rematch but that would be up to Tarver.

''If Tarver wants to fight again, I'll come back fighting,'' Johnson said. ''And if he wants to do something else, so be it.''

Johnson of Miami and Tarver of Tampa, the only two fighters to knock out former three-time world champion Roy Jones, fought in Las Vegas in December, with Johnson taking the victory.

Tarver said he's ready to fight Johnson or Jones if he decides to come out of retirement.

''Whichever one they want to see first, we're up for that. I'm 36 years old so I need to do what I've got to do right now,'' he said.

After the Las Vegas fight, Tarver argued he was robbed, even though Johnson was the aggressor through out the 12-rounds. Two judges scored the Las Vegas fight 115-113 for Johnson, while the third gave it to Tarver, 116-112.

Jones, who had lost only once in 50 previous fights, sustained the two knockouts last year. Tarver floored him in the second round in May in Las Vegas, and Johnson scored his knockout in the ninth round in September in Memphis.

Jones was an HBO commentator for the Memphis and Las Vegas fights.

Tarver lost to Jones in a 12-round decision in November, 2003.

Johnson, a native of Jamaica who started boxing at 20 and turned professional the next year, was a virtual unknown until beating Jones to keep the IBF title.

Tarver, a former WBC and IBF light heavyweight champ, won an Olympic bronze medal in 1996.

At 6-foot-2 1/2, Tarver, a southpaw, had a 4-inch height advantage over Johnson, who is also 36. Johnson weighed in at 173 pounds and Tarver at 173 1/2.

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